Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Last Galactica Post

Hopefully. I can't see anything more actually coming up. But, I just found a detailed interview with showrunner Ron Moore that merits a link. Be forewarned: Spoilers galore for you folks who still haven't seen the recent season finale. Also: Moore talks candidly about crucial plotpoints from both the finale and Season Four. So, if you prefer to be surprised all around, stay away. Otherwise, the kind folks of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - yeah, that's right - have an interview for you right here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Wind Begin to Howl....

Here's a follow up on that last Galactica post....

Season finale aired last night. Out of consideration for those of you who have it Tivo'd, I won't give anything away - not even the explanation behind this post's title. Suffice to say that - while it wasn't nearly as shocking or fantastic as the end of Season Two (see previous post) - the show did follow the lead of the last episode, and maintained the much needed intermingling of plot and character. And while I'm not sitting on the edge of my proverbial seat waiting for next season to start - again, as I and others like me were at the end of Season Two - it is a shame that we'll have to wait until - ahem! - January 2008! On the plus side, the Sci-Fi Channel has officially bumped up Season Four from the original 13 episodes to the standard 22.

In the meantime, showrunner Ron Moore has come clean on a couple of BSG-related items. First up, this Fall a Sci-Fi Channel movie will follow the Battlestar Pegasus. As reported on Ain't It Cool News:

The “Galactica” TV-movie will tell the tale of Admiral Cain and the battlestar Pegasus. Cain was assassinated by a Cylon in season two and the Pegasus was destroyed in a Cylon battle earlier this season.

Also, in an interview with Salon.com, Moore suggests that the proposed Galactica prequel series - Caprica - might be dead in the water:
It's possible. It's been in development at SciFi for a while and they haven't picked it up. And I don't know if they're going to pick it up at this point. There's talk of doing it as a TV movie and seeing how that works, as a back-door pilot, much as we did with the "Galactica" miniseries. Right now there's nothing telling me that they're going to move on it anytime soon, so I'm starting to feel that it's going to remain on the development shelf.
Good news all around, as I for one never held much interest in the prequel, which would only take place some fifty years before the current series. You know what that meant? No Cylons. And we know what happens when there are no Cylons (see previous post).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Wither Galactica?

Believe it or not, the answer is ... too much focus on character. (Note that I didn't say "character development". More on that later.) The strength of Battlestar Galactica - from the original mini through the first third of Season 3 - has always been character development in conjunction with advancing the overall storyline - namely, these are the last humans, running for their lives from the Cylons. In quality storytelling, character development pushes plot, plot forces character development. Focus solely on plot, and you get the '70's version of Galactica (or, virtually any other piece of genre fiction.) Focus only on character and ignore your main story - as BSG has done of late - and you get fluff of the sort you might expect to find on Lifetime or on any daily soap opera.

This season, the writers - and showrunner Ronald D. Moore, whom I have counted as a personal inspiration for a decade - crippled themselves twofold. First, after closing out Season 2 with a brilliant jump forward of one year, they wrapped up the whole New Caprica occupation/resistance plotline way too soon. Wouldn't it have been great to drink in so many revamped and redefined characters in this new setting for even half a season, instead of a mere 3 episodes? Instead, an admittedly fantastic episode allows humanity to escape and return to the stars - and shepherds in what could almost be called the Season without a Cylon. And this is the writers' second misstep.

Yes, a fair amount of the first half of Season 3 devoted time to the Cylons - but not in the usual chase-down-the-humans way. Instead, we learn - through Baltar - many nuances of their lives and society. While some of these revelations proved interesting and cool - each Cylon sees his/her environment as he/she sees fit - the overall effect robbed the Cylons of so much of their mystery. Furthermore, with their lack of hostility and pursuit of humanity, the Cylons gave up what is truly their most important role - the Antagonist.

With the lack of an agressive main plot, Season 3 suffered with lesser storylines that did little if anything to move the story forward. The Starbuck/Apollo will-they-or-won't-they "love story" was the most forced and uncomfortable example of unrequited passion(?) in a series since the writers on X-Files tried to make Mulder and Scully an item. A whole episode of Helo playing detective to catch a bigoted clinic doctor? Another focused on the Chief leading a fleetwide general strike? Don't get me wrong. These are two of my favorite characters on the show. But - aside from the fact that these are both shining examples of the lack of the main plotline - if these stories had to be told, then why serve them us as stand alone bits of filler? Helo discovers the problem, conducts his investigation, and proves his case - all in one episode. This could have been a much richer subplot had it been intertwined with other stories and carried over for, say, three episodes. The same with the story of the strike. In fact, both could have been intertwined, upping tension, for the benefit of all. And, wouldn't it have been great if even one Cylon had shown up?

Season 3 has its finale on Sunday. The most recent episode - Crossroads, Part 1 - appears to be putting the story back on track, with plenty of subplots affecting the major characters - and the return of the Cylons. There is potential for the season to go out on a high note. However, one wonders if it's too little, too late. As of now, the Sci-Fi Channel has only ordered up 13 episodes for Season 4 - not a ringing endorsement. Whether or not the end is truly near for Battlestar Galactica, here's hoping the writers can keep the show on course, returning it to the quality that brought it so much deserved praise.

So say we all!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Films In Boston (Part III)

I promise to give richer posts to the one's that follow. Nevertheless, this is the end of the trilogy. And, we end on an up note. Music and Lyrics is, yes, a lighthearted romantic romp about a washed-up '80's pop star and the amateur lyricist who reignites his career and his heart.

The casting sold me on this. I enjoy Hugh Grant in just about anything he's in. Yes, his range is fairly limited to the dry and droll - but he does it so well. If you enjoyed him as the Prime Minister who dances through Number 10 Downing to the Pointer Sisters in Love Actually, then imagine him recreating Wham!-style dance moves - and songs! Yes, Grant does his own singing; I thought he was dubbed, but I was wrong. Also, I've always enjoyed Drew Barrymore, though I can't recall the last pic of hers I'd actually seen.

The movie's unappologetically light - and what's wrong with that? Yes, that's coming from me, the guy who typically bemoans the lack of substance and meaning. Sometimes it's just enough to see two people on screen simply having a good time performing. This is one of those times. I eagerly await a DVD release, as there's sure to be all sorts of supplements pertaining to Pop! - Grant's fictional '80's band. The movie starts and ends with the ultimate send-up of MTV's early days, a music video whose budget must have been in the hundreds of dollars. Hoping for more on the aforementioned DVD.

Films In Boston (Part II)

After Zodiac - and I mean directly after - I took in Black Snake Moan. Some of you probably know this as the Samuel-Jackson-has-Christina-Ricci-chained-to-a-radiator-movie. Wish I could say there was more to it. I mean, there is, but there could have been so much more. Jackson is a cuckold, whose younger wife just dumped him for his younger brother. Ricci is an honest-to-goodness nymphomaniac(!), whose fiance just left their small town to ship out to Iraq. Through a chain of events, a battered Ricci winds up at Jackson's home, and he decides it's up to him to cure her of her devilish ways.

Now, that's a classic set-up. I could clearly imagine a slightly tamer version coming out back in the '30's. (Of course, Jackson's character would've been white, but that's another story....) Here was a solid opportunity to explore each of their damaged characters, to get deep inside each, rather than just the usual "I was abused" pap that I thought had gone the way of bad TV movies. Well, instead writer-director Craig Brewer - who helmed the much-praised Hustle and Flow back in 2005 - decides to bring the fiance back into the story, thus giving us another half-ass character story that also takes away screentime and focus from Jackson and Ricci. And did I mention that the fiance is played by Justin Timberlake? Truthfully, he's an okay actor in this part. It's just unfortunate that what ultimately results either is just all too predictable or feels like Brewer ran out of ideas.

Can I say anything nice about this movie? Yes. Sam Jackson can sing some mean blues. Was there ever any doubt? If he's on the soundtrack, I can recommend it. Also, Christina Ricci is about the nicest looking piece of white trash we could have hoped for. File this under missed opportunities.

Films In Boston (Part I)

No, not films made in Boston. Simply films I've seen since I've arrived. Three, to be precise. I'm being somewhat fair and giving each pic its own entry.

First to unspool before my eyes - though, if I remember correctly, it was digital projection, so no spool - David Fincher's Zodiac. Fairly solid Fincher fan I am. Se7en and Fight Club are late twentieth century masterpieces. The former, the last word on the serial killer genre - except for maybe Kiryoshi Kurosawa's Cure, which I recommend highly. The latter, a testament to staying human - even if your risidual self-image looks a lot like Brad Pitt - in an increasingly corporate world.

Fincher made a misstep with his last picture, the stylish-to-the-point-of-self-immitation Panic Room. Zodiac is better, but only faintly grasps at greatness that has come before. The director adamantly stated that he didn't want to try and outdo Se7en in any way. He didn't want to make a serial killer pic ever again. He wanted this to be more like a newspaper film, his All the Zodiac's Men. While he succeeded in that regard, the resulting film is little more than an expertly crafted police procedural that squeezes in as many facts about the case as possible in it's 2.5 hour runtime.

So that I don't ramble on.... Solid cast - Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, and more of a who's who of modern "indie" film. Sadly some are wasted - Chloe Sevigny as "the girlfriend/wife". Movie looks really nice and Fincher does an excellent job of capturing the changing looks of San Francisco, from the late-'60's to the mid-'80's. Unfortunately, when the film tries to take a break from the case, more often than not the characters and their relationships fall flat, the dialogue dries up, and a craving for a box of animal crackers is passed off as a character trait.

Not bad, not good. Netflix if you like this sort of thing.

Back from the Dead

No, that's not the title of a movie I just saw. That's the basic theme of the post. The original Mediacopia is still out there somewhere, but I felt a fresh start was called for. Why am I so lazy to call it 2.0? Why not some other cool/whacky/meaningless/meaningful name? Well, I always thought Mediacopia a pretty cool handle, so I'm sticking to it. May I be more productive this time around....